Disturbed? Run For Office!

A friend recently drew my attention to some of the similarities between the recently announced KKK GOP Congressional candidate in Montana and some of the extremist members of the Republican Party in the Montana Legislature. I thought I’d share a few with you. So, just to catch you up:

John Abarr, a former organizer for the KKK, filed to run in the Republican primary for Montana’s congressional seat on May 25, 2011. (More info here: http://helenair.com/news/article_613dd194-8cdc-11e0-9dfc-001cc4c002e0.html)

Abarr’s ties to the KKK have been well documented. Of his affiliation with the Klan, he has said:

“It’s not any different than the NAACP,” he says. “The Klan is basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people. The Montana Human Rights Network likes to blow everything out of proportion.”

Gotta love the logic. Republicans, such as gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill have tried to distance themselves from this guy.  However, after this legislative session in Montana, it’s hard to deny the fact that he is well within the extremist wing of the Republican party.

LGBT Issues

Abarr has also called for the deportation of gays, lesbians and Jewish people: http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/etc/Content?oid=1133942 And, as I’ve reported numerous times, the Montana Republican Party Platform calls for the re-criminalization of gay people in the state:

“We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.”

During the Legislative session, Republicans refused to remove language that had been ruled unconstitutional by both the state and federal supreme courts calling for the criminalization of gays and lesbians from Montana law. And they made  disgusting comments on the bill :

 Some Republicans even denied that the courts had struck down the statute

HIV/AIDS

According to the Human Rights Network, Abarr sent a flier to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 2007, urging Bozeman residents to stay inside to avoid contracting HIV during the Montana Pride Celebration. He claimed that HIV could be transmitted by air. 

During the most recent legislative session, Republican House Speaker Pro Tempe, Rep. Janna Taylor claimed people in prison were spreading HIV by blowdarts: http://www.youtube.com/watchv=igYKflAdzjo&feature=channel_video_title

Racial Minorities

Abarr said of his choice to move to Montana:

“I’ve pretty much decided since I spent some time in California that it (a pure white Christian nation) is just not gonna be. I mean there’s so many of them (racial minorities),” Abarr says, adding that in Montana it’s easier to achieve an all-white society.”

Republican Rep. James Knox introduced a bill that would redefine what a citizen of Montana is and essentially ignore the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. This bill would have likely removed citizenship from Native Americans and the children of immigrants in the state.

Convinced? I’ll bet there’s more if you look.

The key to redefining politics in this state is to redefine politicians. We effectively tied the hands of the most effective tool (building relationships) by enacting term limits. There is no longer any reason for any of our state legislators to cultivate relationships for the good of the people of the State of Montana- instead, people are just interested in ramming their own crazy-ass agendas through the legislative process.

Reason will only prevail when we elect reasonable people- people who are interested in communicating, are not threatened by differences and will work to guarantee a future in this state for all its people- not just a few…

The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

Progress, But Still Disappointing

March 29th, from Diane Sands:

Friends…

Today I attempted to “blast” SB 276 out of hostile Judiciary Committee and onto the Floor for a vote. This is Senator Facey’s bill to remove offensive language about “Deviate Sexual Conduct”….the law was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 but the legislature insists on keeping it on the books as part of sentence in the Sex Crimes part of MCA that includes bestiality.

Rep. Ken Peterson still claims that the Court didn’t address this issue entirely and that the crime should stay on the books, including the FELONY status with a penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine up to$50,000 or both.

While we didn’t get the 60 votes required, we did get 51, including a number of Republicans who believe it is a privacy issue.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE 20 PLUS YEARS I HAVE WORKED ON THIS TOPIC THAT WE HAVE EVER WON THE MAJORITY OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE!!!!

I view this a great progress, especially with the ultra conservative make up of the current legislature.

Sands, the first openly gay member of the Montana Legislature, is a force of nature and a champion of human rights. The words she chose to introduce her motion are powerful and deserve a look/listen:

The words of the opposition also need to be heard- the ignorance and intolerance are epic, an embarrassment to the State of Montana and, indeed the whole country.

Newsflash! MT GOP Hates Human Rights (and LGBT People)

It’s been a rough few weeks for LGBT persons in Montana.

I testified at the legislature (with many of my brothers and sisters) against HB 516 which would overturn (perhaps even unconstitutionally) the right of cities and towns to enact their own anti-discrimination legislation. It passed out of committee- despite the amazingly logical arguments against it.

And Senate Bill 276, introduced by Tom Facey would have brought the criminal code into line with the judiciary- in effect aligning the language with the law, by removing the language of the deviate conduct laws which criminalize sexual behavior between consenting adults of the same gender. Bringing the language of the law in line with legal precedent. A no-brainer, right?

Sigh. Not for these Republican legislators. It just got worse. The hearing had some of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard– much less to be spoken publicly by elected officials. The Billings Gazette had this to say:

Also turned back was a plan to get rid of a state law making gay sex subject to criminal penalties — even though the courts have ruled it unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Republicans, in a 13-7 vote, stacked up against the idea of removing from the books the law offensive to the gay community, which has argued over the years that the antiquated law sends a hostile message.

But House Republicans stuck with their party’s platform that calls for keeping the anti-gay law, even though many Senate Republicans had supported the idea in sending it to the other chamber.

“Voting to say this should stay on the books is truly a cruel act,” said Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula. “When you cast that vote you said that I and other members of this Legislature who are gay or lesbian should go to prison for up to 10 years for whom I love. Don’t come up to me later and say you are sorry.”

The Montana GOP has made things very clear- they don’t give a shit about human rights, they don’t give a shit about science and they don’t give a shit about gay people. In fact, they hate them. The only reason not to pass this bill was to slap the faces- repeatedly- of Montana LGBT persons. The only reason. That’s hate.

The plank that still stands in the Montana GOP Platform that promotes the criminalization of “homosexual” acts, I argued before, is anachronistic and hateful and should be removed.

I’ve changed my mind.

It should stay because that’s exactly what they believe. That kind of ridiculous hate and intolerance is exactly what the GOP legislators have sanctioned, promoted and supported. I thought that out of deference to some amazingly open Republican Montanans I know (and am related to) that this kind of thing could be avoided- that the official government of Montana would not tell LGBT kids that they are less valuable than others, that it wouldn’t keep LGBT adults living under the specter of vilification, intolerance and second-class citizenship.

I was wrong.

The MT GOP is intolerant and anti-gay. Period. And the people of Montana need to know that- without equivocation.

So, if you’re a Republican-leaning Montanan and you’re saying to yourself, “These legislators are crazy, they don’t speak for me,” you’re wrong. They do. And if you don’t follow the same ignorant, bigoted stance they are taking, you need to speak up.

Immediately.

And maybe consider leaving the party of bigotry and ignorance. Because, like it or not, the Montana Democrats are the only people standing united for human rights.

And if you’re an LGBT person who is still a Republican, the only thing I can (honestly) say is “Why? They hate you. Do you hate yourself?”

Because- mark my words, it’s just going to get worse.

Off To The Rodeo

It’s not 40 below, but I do have a heater in the Bofus, so I’m off to the Rodeo- once known as the Montana Legislature, to speak in opposition to HB 516 (see previous post).

There are a lot of reasons to oppose this bill. Don Pogreba gives us more to think about from Intelligent Discontent:

One of the elements of Western movies that always puzzled me was the frequent assertion that no one in the West cared where a person had come from; all that mattered was the person they were in their new community. Growing up in relatively small towns like Shelby and Laurel, it seemed that the exact opposite was true. When someone new came to town, we wanted to know everything about him or her and we pried like hell to find out whatever we could. But the other half of the story was true: once that person arrived, all we cared about was that the new person did her job, treated her neighbors well, and shoveled her walk in the winter.

Once you became part of our town, your private life was your private life, and it wasn’t anybody’s business who you loved and/or slept with.

People like Harris Himes and and Dallas Erickson never seemed to learn that, though. For reasons that perhaps only a trained psychiatrist could explain, they seem obsessed with who someone sleeps with, and quite uncomfortably, how they do it. They hate people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender so much that they’ll lie about them, spew vicious invective at them, and even suggest that the death penalty would be appropriate for the crime of loving someone of the same sex.

Perfect. Read the rest here.

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out his piece on Montana Education. Excellent points, all.

HB 516-Take Action Without Moving From Your Chair

I have sent a letter to the Senate Local Government Committee to oppose HB 516, which would nullify the Missoula Equality Ordinance and Bozeman’s anti-bullying and equality resolutions. I would suggest everyone who opposes this bill should do the same. A large number of voices is a better bet at actually being heard by this committee, so I’m going to make it easy for you.

Here’s the link so that you can make your own voice heard:  http://leg.mt.gov/css/sessions/62nd/legwebmessage.asp

And here’s my statement. Feel free to use any part of it that you’d like to use. There are also some scientific statistics for your use here:

RE MT HB 516:

  1. Every community should have the right to decide its own ordinances of inclusion. Ordinances of exclusion, usually reserved for dictatorships, theocratic states and societies of intolerance are another matter.
  2. Creating a law that disallows protection is counterintuitive to the purpose of government as set forth in both the Federal and State Constitutions, in which are stated explicitly the government’s purpose to protect the citizenry from discrimination, violence and other harms.
  3. This is an attempt to write prejudice and bigotry into the law. It is an attempt to tie local ordinances to State law in a way which keeps government from evolving as understanding, both scientific and social, creating a top-down model, instead of a cooperative, interdynamic process.
  4. It is a blatant and ignorant effort to push a personal agenda of intolerance toward LGBT persons in obvious defiance of biological, social and psychological science.
  5. This bill is discrimination and rejection of the right of communities to protect the citizens as they believe necessary. It enshrines bigotry, ignorance and personal belief in defiance of science, human experience and freedom.

My Statements Re: HB 516, HB 514

February 18, 2011

Montana Legislators,

RE MT HB 516:

  1. Every community should have the right to decide its own ordinances of inclusion. Ordinances of exclusion, usually reserved for dictatorships, theocratic states and societies of intolerance are another matter.
  2. Creating a law that disallows protection is counterintuitive to the purpose of government as set forth in both the Federal and State Constitutions, in which are stated explicitly the government’s purpose to protect the citizenry from discrimination, violence and other harms.
  3. This is an attempt to write prejudice and bigotry into the law. It is an attempt to tie local ordinances to State law in a way which keeps government from evolving as understanding, both scientific and social, creating a top-down model, instead of a cooperative, interdynamic process.
  4. It is a blatant and ignorant effort to push a personal agenda of intolerance toward LGBT persons in obvious defiance of biological, social and psychological science.
  5. This bill is discrimination and rejection of the right of communities to protect the citizens as they believe necessary. It enshrines bigotry, ignorance and personal belief in defiance of science, human experience and freedom.

RE HB 514:

1.  The reality of difference in sexual orientation and gender identity is acknowledged by this bill.

2.  The scientific evidence and positions of the scientific community regarding the reality of different sexual identities/orientations and the fluidity of gender identities are clear. The American Psychological Association recognizes the reality of heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. The APA also advocates against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Regarding sexual orientation:

Research has found that the people who have the most positive attitudes toward gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are those who say they know one or more gay, lesbian or bisexual person well, often as a friend or co-worker. For this reason, psychologists believe that negative attitudes toward gay people as a group are prejudices that are not grounded in actual experience but are based on stereotypes and mis-information. Furthermore, protection against violence and discrimination are very important, just as they are for any other minority groups. Some states include violence against an individual on the basis of his or her sexual orientation as a “hate crime,” and ten U.S. states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Regarding gender identity:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT APA opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT APA supports the passage of laws and policies protecting the rights, legal benefits, and privileges of people of all gender identities and expressions;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT APA supports full access to employment, housing, and education regardless of gender identity and expression;

The American Medical Association says the following:

AMA Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation
General Policies:

H-65.992 Continued Support of Human Rights and Freedom. Our AMA continues (1) to support the dignity of the individual, human rights and the sanctity of human life, and (2) to oppose any discrimination based on an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin or age and any other such reprehensible policies. (Sub. Res. 107, A-85; Modified by CLRPD Rep. 2, I-95; Reaffirmation A-00; Reaffirmation A-05; Modified: BOT Rep. 11, A-07)

H-65.983 Nondiscrimination Policy. The AMA affirms that it has not been its policy now or in the past to discriminate with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. (Res. 1, A-93; Reaffirmed: CCB Rep. 6, A-03; Modified: BOT Rep. 11, A-07)

H-65.990 Civil Rights Restoration. The AMA reaffirms its long-standing policy that there is no basis for the denial to any human being of equal rights, privileges, and responsibilities commensurate with his or her individual capabilities and ethical character because of an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or transgender status, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin, or age. (BOT Rep. LL, I-86; Amended by Sunset Report, I-96; Modified: Res. 410, A-03)

Does Montana want to ignorantly proceed against the example of these two esteemed organizations?

3. Protection is not a special right, it is an equal right. We all have the right to live in peace and without the threat of violence, discrimination or subjugation. Studies and experience show that LGBT persons are constantly subject to bigotry, violence, and harassment. Indeed, LGBT teens are the highest risk group for suicide attempt and completion. Much of that is due to oppressive or negligent laws that fail to promote a sense of self-worth for every law-abiding citizen.

4. Montana has a history of live and let live. Without this bill, the lives of a significant number of Montanans are prevented from being full lives of integrity and equality. Without this bill, you continue to promote a second and third class of Montanans.

Sincerely,

D. Gregory Smith, MA, LMHCA

Butte

White Sulphur Councilman Accused Of Racism

Homecoming never used to be such a problem when I was a kid- but then there were only white kids in my school.

The Great Falls Tribune reports:

Senior Kody Mondragon and the other 10 homecoming king and queen candidates planned to take the traditional ride in the back of convertibles during the Oct. 8 parade.

But Mondragon said when he tried to climb into the car owned and driven by Councilman Heith Stidham, Stidham refused repeatedly to let him in, saying he couldn’t let someone who looked like Obama ride with him. (emphasis mine)

WTF? Full story here.

This Is Important!

Also published on The Bilerico Project

It took almost three months, but the story about the hateful Montana GOP platform plank seeking the criminalization of gays has gone national.

The Associated Press ran a story over the weekend that was picked up by The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times, NPR, and there was even a story on a Montana NBC affiliate station. And more newspapers, I’m told, will be running the story in the next few days.

Why is this important? I’ll tell you why.

It’s important because this is happening all the time. People in charge are doing things that most of the masses would not approve, crossing their fingers and hoping it will go unnoticed. It’s happening when the Christianist agenda, even when unconstitutional, gets pushed into public policy through the side door. And this time they got caught.

It’s important because most Montana Republicans didn’t even know of the plank’s existence, and many are outraged at the discovery. This is just the kind of sneaky right-wing evangelical behavior that erodes our rights- even if it is happening in rural America.

It’s important because behind the scenes there were tireless individuals who wouldn’t let this go. There were people who realized that this platform plank had an impact on the freedom of all Americans, and they kept the legs under this story. They shared the story on Facebook, they sent it to their friends and local news organizations, they wrote letters and made phone calls. There were even allies in the media, the GOP – maybe unsurprisingly not the Log Cabin Republicans, conservatives and local human rights organizations that knew this was important – not just for gay people, but for everyone.

It’s important because it shows hard work, perseverance and a reasonable sense of moral outrage pays off. There’s a realization that activism still works, that sitting on our collective asses and bitching to each other doesn’t.

And that, my friends, is a victory.

PS,  Read this if you think we should rest on our laurels…

Update: Change.org now has a petition for the Montana GOP leadership to take the hate out of their platform.

Sign it. All the cool kids are doing it.

Montana Republicans: Officially Homophobes And Bigots?

~Also published on Bilerico.com

In their newly unveiled 2010 Platform, the Montana GOP has included a plank (under “Crime”) which states:

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

So now all Montana Republicans are officially homophobes and bigots. Some helpful definitions:

  • Homophobia: an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual persons.
  • Bigoted: expressing or characterized by prejudice and intolerance.

Really? Is this the will of the many reasonable Republicans in this state? Is this the will of Republicans who are gay (and, according to this platform plank, filled with self-loathing and irrational self-prejudice), of Republicans with LGBT family members and friends (who, according to this plank, really loathe and detest us and are really only being nice to us so they can take away our peaceful right to co-exist?), of Republicans who actually know better? Or is this the will of a cabal of unenlightened leaders who are looking to de-humanize a segment of the population?

I suspect the latter. I know many reasonable Montana Republicans- hell, I’m related to quite a few. I know that this is not their “clear will”. I know it’s not the will of my parents, my extended family, my friends and colleagues. Where did this come from? What is this “clear will” they’re talking about? Whatever it is, it’s wrong.

Oh, and by the way, the language “Keep homosexual acts illegal” is superfluous and irrelevant. The Montana Supreme Court decriminalized homosexual acts in 1997. There’s nothing to keep. Not to mention that it flies in the face of all scientific information….

So, if you’re a Republican, in Montana or elsewhere, let the leadership know that this is not okay. Even if you’re not a Republican, I think it’s important to raise your voice against this bigotry. This is not the Montana I know and love.

Do it here:

Montana Republican Party
PO Box 935
Helena, MT 59624
(406) 442-6469

Dennis Rehberg is the Montana party’s top elected official, email him: Dennis.Rehberg@mail.house.gov

Or, write on their Facebook Wall– suggested post: “take the ignorance and hate out of your platform!”

If anyone has an email address that would be appropriate for expressing our collective displeasure, please send it along….

Update: Why Montana Matters